The legislators of the state of New York have been working on a bill that would create a prescription drug database. The bill, if passed, would unite New York with the ranks of 43 other states that have a drug monitoring program in place. New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman proposed the bill, which would monitor the prescribing and dispensing of certain prescription drugs.
Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in our country. People go to great lengths to get more pills, either by doctor shopping, or getting prescriptions filled through different pharmacies, or by visiting pill mill facilities that will hand out prescriptions. Prescription drug addictions are ruining people’s lives, and ending others, as addiction and overdoses are common results.
The program that is being proposed in New York is called the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, or I-STOP, and it goes above and beyond the drug database systems of the past. I-STOP, as proposed, would require doctors and pharmacists to actually look up a patient’s information in the system to find out their prescription history. Every prescription for certain drugs would need to be entered every time they are written and then filled, and doctors and pharmacists would need to review the patient’s prescription history before prescribing any of these designated meds. Fines could be issued for practitioners or pharmacists who fail to record a prescription or who don’t look up a patient’s history.
Those who are promoting I-STOP point to its real time monitoring as being the most effective way to control the prescription drug problem. Instead of waiting for paperwork to be filed and investigations to take place when someone is suspected of prescription drug abuse, drug abusers could get help much more quickly under I-STOP. Potentially, if a doctor checks the database before writing a prescription and finds the patient has a drug problem, the doctor could counsel them and recommend treatment right then and there. The system is designed to catch someone with a drug addiction early so that they can receive help. “The epidemic of prescription drug abuse is infecting our communities and wreaking havoc on families in every corner of this state,” Schneiderman said in a news release. “We have an opportunity to address this issue head on. I-STOP tracks abusers early and will provide the medical community with the information it needs to treat patients, help addicts and fight trafficking.” (1)
Critics do not like the mandatory requirements of I-STOP for doctors and pharmacists, and people worry about patient privacy with these databases. But others wonder why anyone would not want to support a program like this. It is good to be cautious about programs that create more work for people already overwhelmed by paperwork, and we don’t like additional regulations put on us. But the prescription drug problem has been called the “biggest health issue in our country today”, and more people die from prescription drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine. It might just be time for us to use drastic measures to stop such a devastating problem.